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Guess the City 167

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
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34
There's a big hint in the foreground. Yeah, that big rock.



A very pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly place. Note the separation of the bike lane from the traffic lanes, the pleasant sidewalk, and the crossing signal with timer.



The pedestrian mall, Pearl Street, is a vibrant place. Here, there is a feature for the kids. This sand box with Boulders in it was occupied almost every time I went by, with mothers sitting at the side and kids playing in it.



With space commanding good money, how can you expand the street beyond one level? This building does a very good job of opening up the second floor and providing access to the leftist bookstore in the basement.



Street crossings on the mall are well-marked, with colored concrete through the entire intersection. The whole mall is well landscaped with mature trees, and adorned with good, low lighting, furniture, banners, etc.



This is for all intents a mid-block crossing. Amazingly, as I walked up, the cars stopped to let me cross! The pedestrian refuge in the center is a great feature.



Native landscaping is used throughout the city. Here you find it along Boulder Creek in front of the city hall. Oh yeah, if you haven't guessed the city, there's another hint in this photo.



The city's path system is entirely separated from road crossings. Here, the path is below the level of the adjacent river.



Much of the new (re)development has a character and quality similar to this. There is a height restriction of forty feet.



Another example of traffic calming and bicycle lanes separated from driving lanes.



Here is a plaza created in one of the new redevelopment projects downtown. I passed it on my way back to the Hotel Boulderado from the farmer's market. I understand it is used for concerts and other activities fairly regularly.



The Boulder County Courthouse in the background is a wonderful building with architecture mimicking the Flatiron Range.



Back on the Pearl Street Mall, artwork is generously spread along its distance. Signs help to interpret the area.



The landscape beds are filled with native perennials.



One final hint. Any guesses?

 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
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1,369
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29
Boulder, of course. Pearl Street is overall the best outdoor pedestrian space of all I have seen, and I've seen a lot.
 

Repo Man

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2,549
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25
Great photos cardinal. I have added them to my growing collection of examples of good planning. I especially like the way that they seperate the bike lanes from the vehicle lanes using planters and pavers. It seems like most places (Madison comes to mind) just use plain old concrete and pavement markings to seperate the lanes.
 

boiker

Cyburbian
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3,889
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26
The place planning is really nice. You can't beat way-finders, nothing is more irritating that not being able to get around an unfamiliar downtown. The seperated bike lanes are great.

/negative planner hat
Now, to get picky on the little things. Lots of pink brick. Is this a common stone color in the area? I guess my only gripe with this is that it seems all new development uses this pink brick when it needs to add 'character'. It's much better than just concrete, but is it possible that there are other hues available?

/hat off
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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34
I took these photos two weeks ago. I will get out into the neighborhoods and take some more when I go back next week.
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
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3,232
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The seperated bike lanes look great, but they're too tall and end too close to the intersection, which reduces visability.
 

Lee Nellis

Cyburbian
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29
The pink-ish brick is a long-standing architectural theme in Boulder, including on the U of CO campus. I would guess it goes back to the '60's, perhaps earlier. It was already there in the early '70's when I first saw the city.
 

mgk920

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4,202
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Cardinal said:
I took these photos two weeks ago. I will get out into the neighborhoods and take some more when I go back next week.
And I was going to guess Lafayette, Louisville or Superior....

(hehehehehe)

I've been to Boulder a couple of times, too (a friend of mine attended UC a few years back) and it struck me as a combination of a typical college town and an almost 'Disneyfied' exclusive enclave. Students and those with enough money to afford a detached single live in the City of Boulder, everyone else goes to the faceless sprawl beyond the city-owned, but outside of the actual city limits, green (or brown) belt.

I was impressed by the way the downtown area was handled and it is full of great ideas that can be used elsewhere to a real positive effect, but it just seemed to me to be bit 'over the top' in a place that doesn't hit me as a real working city. It has the 'quaintness', but it lacked what I felt was a true 'character'.

How close is Boulder to 'buildout' and what are the plans for when that happens (if it has not already)?

Mike
 

Cardinal

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10,080
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mgk920 said:
How close is Boulder to 'buildout' and what are the plans for when that happens (if it has not already)?
You are right about it being somewhat exclusive. I don't think that is intentional, but it is so desirable that a 950 square foot detached house sells for $250,000. I didn't pick up any of the "fake" feel that you see in a Celebration or similar community. Boulder's unique and "alternative" elements are added onto the existing fabric of the community, and seem to fit in pretty well.

Boulder has some pretty tight growth limits (which also contribute to the high cost of housing, but then help to make it what it is). These do allow for expansion over time, but slowly. This encourages redevelopment and higher densities.
 

mgk920

Cyburbian
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Cardinal said:
You are right about it being somewhat exclusive. I don't think that is intentional, but it is so desirable that a 950 square foot detached house sells for $250,000. I didn't pick up any of the "fake" feel that you see in a Celebration or similar community. Boulder's unique and "alternative" elements are added onto the existing fabric of the community, and seem to fit in pretty well.

Boulder has some pretty tight growth limits (which also contribute to the high cost of housing, but then help to make it what it is). These do allow for expansion over time, but slowly. This encourages redevelopment and higher densities.
I agree that all of that makes Boulder what it is. ;-)

I was kind of taken aback by your report on their maximum building height limit, which strikes me as being overly restrictive and apparently contribiutes to my sense of it being on the 'artificial' side. Maybe it was all of the relatively new looking low-rise buildings in the central area. But then, I have not spent more than a couple of weeks in the Front Range and I would likely have a different impression of things had I lived my entire life in the 303/720 area.

Someday, once the development entirely fills in the area inside of the green belt and the outside of the green belt sprawl has pretty much run its course, the city might be forced by economics and population pressure to allow taller buildings.

Mike
 

Lee Nellis

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29
I don't know how close Boulder is to build-out. There is a lot of redevelopment potential, and I saw new mixed use buildings replacing parking lots when I passed through just a few weeks ago.

I think it is important to point out that Boulder has never been a "working" city in the way some people might define that term. It has never been industrial. It may have supplied some miners before the turn of the century, but its business has been education and research for many decades. Nearby Longmont was always the farm town until it was engulfed in Denver's growth. So, I don't think what you see is at all artificial, its just a particular character that is shared by only a few places (Berkeley and Burlington, perhaps, with Missoula as a wannabe). As for taller buildings, remember Christopher Alexander's maxim, "buildings over 4 stories high make people crazy."
 

Miles Ignatius

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368
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12
Great Shots!

....I was there last week for the Bolder Boulder 10K and appearance wise, the place gets better all of the time. The only thing I lament is the demise of local proprietors on the Mall who've been priced out on the rent escalations, but there's still some hold-outs - Boulder Bookstore, etc.
 

BKM

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6,463
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Lee Nellis said:
remember Christopher Alexander's maxim, "buildings over 4 stories high make people crazy."
Well, I like a modicum of taller buildings myself, but understand the maxim. In the case of Boulder, it may be to preserve views/the character as a low-rise town.

Plus, it is surprising the densities you can achieve at relatively low building height. (Look at Boston or Paris). Of course, that means relatively small apartments/townhouses rather than single family homes. And, it means the National Automobile Utopia and its expensive, expansive parking lots are actively discouraged. Since Boulder still has its "rugged" set of skiing and hiking young studs and studettes, how will they deal with lack of parking for their Land Rovers? :)
 

Hceux

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Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, I know. I know. I know. I know. *pants* (pretending to be a grade 5 super teacher's pet).

Boulder, Colorado, United States of America, North America.
 

Cirrus

Cyburbian
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303
Points
11
Spent 4 years in Boulder. Got my planning degree there.

Basically, Boulder’s problem is it refuses to acknowledge there is a world beyond the city limits. Policy in Boulder makes for a very attractive town, with very nice paths and plazas, but wreaks havoc on the surrounding environment and has appalling effects on land use at the metropolitan level.

It is important to distinguish between urban design and planning. The pictures show Boulder has quite good urban design. Land use planning, unfortunately, isn't anywhere near the quality advertised. It's not just the height limit, but extremely restrictive slow growth policies have created some of the worst sprawl in Colorado. Boulder has pushed upwards of a 100,000 people out to new, sprawling subdivisions in Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior and Broomfield. Tens of thousands of those people would have been more than happy to live in urban Boulder, but were forced out to the suburbs because Boulder will not allow enough density to meet the demand for housing. The Greenbelt just makes it worse. It doesn't do anything to stop the march of sprawl, but it does push that sprawl 10 miles further out of town, so everyone has to drive that much further to get anywhere. No, Boulder's growth programs have been a total disaster.

But what's worse? City leaders not only don't care, they're not only proud of their accomplishments, but they're teaching every other city in Colorado the merits of getting a publicist good enough to convince people your destructive NIMBYism is actually smart growth and good environmentalism. Boulder deserves a lot of credit for duping a lot of people in to thinking it's at the forefront of good planning (myself included, for a while).


Anyhow, rants aside, some specific responses:
  • Some of what looks like pink brick is actually "Boulder flagstone" (the base of the building in the second picture, for instance). It's a local rock used by the University for over a century now that looks rugged by is quite beautiful. It's put to very good use on civic buildings, but looks a little awkward on commercial and residential buildings. Other than the flagstone, buildings in Boulder (and much of Colorado) often use a natural palette of earthtones, so you see a lot of clay and forest greens. It's not so much about "adding faux character" as it is just the local vernacular.
  • Regarding buildout, it depends what you mean. Because of the greenbelt there is virtually no open land available for new development, but there is plenty of room for redevelopment and infill. Boulder looks good because, again, they do a great job with urban design, but statistically it is not very dense at all - less than your typical streetcar suburb back east. Under current zoning they can't add very much more to downtown, but the current zoning will change eventually (now that the city is losing serious sales tax dollars to the suburbs it created).
  • Regarding "not real character". I disagree. Boulder has a very distinct and genuine character. It's a high-brow "hippie sell out who won't admit it" character, but it's there and it's genuine. There is nothing fake about Boulder's character.
  • Regarding the height limit, it's 45 feet downtown, 35 feet just about anywhere else (including downtown's east and west ends), and the city welcomes any opportunity to push it lower. The problem is they've already reached the point where it's seriously hurting them economically. Broomfield now has as much office space as Boulder.
 
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